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version (4.96 KB) by Matthew Jeppesen
pivot_table: pivot tables for matlab using table data objects


Updated 07 Sep 2016

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pivot_table: Pivot Tables For Matlab

This function calculates a pivot table (similar to those created in Excel, R, or pandas (python) from a matlab table. In other words, in is able to summarise a large dataset by aggregating it in to groups, and then applying a function to those groups (such as sum, max etc.)

Pivot tables are an easy and quick way to analyse data. In fact, I would not be surprised if a built-in pivot table function is added to a future Matlab release, in which case this document could easily be out of date and the pivot_table function no longer required.

Other pivot table functions exist on the Matlab File Exchange, such as pivottable and mat2piv.m, but these use cell arrays or other data structures, rather than matlab tables. In my opinion, tables in Matlab are the best and most efficient way to process and analyse large datasets which mix different types of data (text, numbers etc.)

If you have a table in Matlab:

>> x = table(...
{'foo'; 'bar'; 'foo'}, ...
[-1; 2; 4], ...
'VariableNames', {'Name', 'Value'});

x =

Name Value
_____ _____

'foo' -1
'bar' 2
'foo' 4

(NOTE: >> above means the Matlab prompt, i.e. you should type or copy & paste what comes after the >> into the prompt.)

Then you can make a pivot table with:

>> pivot_table(x, 'Name', 'Value', @sum)

ans =

Name sum_of_Value
_____ ____________

'bar' 2
'foo' 3

The format is:

p = pivot_table(t, aggregate_by, data, function_handle, varargin)


t is a Matlab table containing the data you wish to turn into a pivot table

aggregate_by is the name of column in t you wish to use to aggregate the data (or a cell array of the columns names, if you wish to aggregate by more than one column).

data is the name of the column in t containing the data you wish to analyse (or a cell array of the column names, if you wish to analyse more than one column).

function_handle is a handle to the function you wish to use to analyse the data (e.g. @sum, @mean, @max etc.)


Download the repository, place it somewhere on your computer, and add the directory which contains pivot_table.m to the Matlab path. E.g.:

>> addpath('C:\Users\foo\Documents\matlab-pivot-table');

More examples

Aggregation by more than one column. First, create a table:

>> x = table(...
{'foo'; 'bar'; 'foo'; 'foo'}, ...
{'a'; 'b'; 'c'; 'a'}, ...
[-1; 2; 4; 7], ...
'VariableNames', {'Name', 'Letter', 'Value'});

x =

Name Letter Value
_____ ______ _____

'foo' 'a' -1
'bar' 'b' 2
'foo' 'c' 4
'foo' 'a' 7

Then create the pivot table:

>> pivot_table(x, {'Name', 'Letter'}, 'Value', @sum)

p =

Name Letter sum_of_Value
_____ ______ ____________

'bar' 'b' 2
'foo' 'a' 6
'foo' 'c' 4

Analyse data from more than one column. First, create a table:

>> x = table(...
{'foo'; 'bar'; 'foo'}, ...
[-1; 2; 4], ...
[1; 1; 1], ...
'VariableNames', {'Name', 'value_1', 'value_2'});

x =

Name value_1 value_2
_____ _______ _______

'foo' -1 1
'bar' 2 1
'foo' 4 1

Then, create the pivot table: >> p = pivot_table(x, 'Name', {'value_2', 'value_1'}, @sum)

p =

Name sum_of_value_2 sum_of_value_1
_____ ______________ ______________

'bar' 1 2
'foo' 2 3


pivot_table.m comes with a unit testing suite test_pivot_table.m. You can use this to verify that the code works on your machine by running runtests in Matlab, from inside the directory which contains test_pivot_table.m

Cite As

Matthew Jeppesen (2021). mjeppesen/matlab-pivot-table (, GitHub. Retrieved .

Comments and Ratings (4)

Robert Hamill

It looks like unstack() that Giuseppe mentioned is the now built-in solution.

Giuseppe Cascarino

Does this function do anything that cannot be done using "unstack()"?


Dustin Harper

Works great to aggregate data from one series (like in the examples), or to stack data from multiple series.

To separate into one column for each series, use MATLAB's unstack function.

MATLAB Release Compatibility
Created with R2013b
Compatible with any release
Platform Compatibility
Windows macOS Linux

Inspired by: pivottable, mat2piv.m

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